Stats are clear but strategy seems impractical. Covid-19 is the biggest challenge that the tourism sector is facing to date. Typically, the tourism sector is among the first to be affected, and the last to recover during a health crisis.
For the tourism sector anywhere including Jammu and Kashmir, the present pandemic has made it known that it is no longer going to be business-as-usual especially when the second wave is only growing. Circumstances call for redefining, refocusing and changes in the plan of action going forward. The priority at all stages of planning must revolve around having an environment that allows the tourism to at least sustain. The core remains keeping the covid-19 at bay as much as possible. On March 31, people woke to the disturbing news that a tourist from Pune Maharashtra has died at hospital and cause of death being the ravaging virus. The septuagenarian had arrived in the Valley a few days ago along with his son. Both of them had tested negative when tested at Srinagar airport which brings to question the efficacy to confirm the pathogen.
Several states and UTs have made it mandatory for visitors to produce Covid-19 test if they are coming from areas having higher covid-19 cases in a bid to stem the surge of the virus. The visitors are required to show a negative test report and that too not the rapid antigen test (frequently referred to as a rapid test) but “RT-PCR”— considered the “gold standard” for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This test actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms.
The J&K government has already ordered strengthening of the preventive mechanism at the Srinagar Airport, instructing the Srinagar and Budgam district administrations to set up additional coronavirus testing facilities there and to enable quick receipt of test reports. It has ordered no inbound traveller be allowed to leave the airport until their COVID-19 test report is received, directing that test reports be issued on the spot before letting the travellers go. However, the reliance is on rapid test which is only accurate in a patient who is having symptoms of COVID-19. While the rapid test can get results very quickly, they may not always be accurate. It is time for J&K to follow states and UT like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha, Tripura and even Maharashtra besides New Delhi to make negative RTPCR test mandatory before arrival.